Now that daylight saving time is over and we move deeper into an autumn heavy with pandemic-related school closures and social isolation for many, we have been thinking about resiliency. Two myths about what is “normal” have clouded our understanding of why some individuals are more resilient. The first myth is that healthy people are problem free; the second is that healthy people are represented by a single, idealized model. This model does not exist.
Resiliency is about making mental and emotional health a priority. Just as we train and exercise our bodies and practice preventative health care, we need to train our minds and increase our emotional readiness. This will help us cope with change and adversity, think more clearly, take control of our choices, and decrease our stress. It will also set a healthy example for others to follow.
The “new normal” of the pandemic crisis offers an opportunity to tune in to how we are coping and to practice good self care. Here are some key pieces of an individual resiliency plan to help guide you to the many base programs that can support you.
So, how do we begin tackling our mental and emotional health? First, honor the mind and body connection and get moving. Regular exercise releases endorphins, our “feel good” chemicals which lift mood, increase energy, and help us manage our stress. Additionally, regular exercise has been shown to increase sleep quality, memory, and concentration. It also has a positive impact on depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress, and other mental health concerns. You don’t need to go to the gym every day to reap the benefits of the mind-body connection. You can maintain good social distancing and still take your family and friends walking, biking, or swimming. Play a sport like tennis or golf, practice yoga, or go on a hike.
A few things you may want to try? Single Marine Program offers a lacrosse club and an upcoming All Terrain Unit Competition. And Cherry Point has a high ropes challenge course called Devil Dog Dare. Semper Fit offers personal trainers and a new yoga class will be starting this fall. Kayaks, canoes, and SUPS can be rented though Outdoor Rec to enjoy with family and friends. And New Parent Support offers Fall Friends at Cherry Tree House Playgroup on Wednesdays from 10-1130 a.m. Pandemic isolation can be particularly hard on young families, and this is a safe way to connect with our children and each other through outdoor play.
The take away: Find something physical you enjoy and make it a part of your life
Next, get out from behind that screen and connect with others. In the world of social media, we often neglect our real world relationships. This has been especially true during the pandemic. Face-to-face connections with others is an essential component to emotional and mental health. Healthy friendships relieve stress, provide comfort and happiness, and prevent loneliness. Take time out for your family, arrange a coffee date with friends you have not seen in a while, or invite a colleague to an outdoor picnic lunch. You can make these critical connections even if you are wearing a mask and sitting six feet apart. If you are new to the area, try joining an organization you find interesting. Volunteering is another wonderful way to give back to your community and increase social connections. It can also give us a higher sense of purpose in our lives, which is another essential element to emotional health and resiliency. Just remember to socially distance and be safe and selective when exploring these options.
A few things to try? Marine Corps Family Team Building offers ways to get connected through their LINKS programs (for kids, teens, and adults) and to get involved through command unit trainings. They also offer ways to get stronger through their life skills classes. Take a Love Languages or Four Lenses Class. Family Advocacy Program offers Within My Reach, a two-day relationship workshop. Get together with other single marines and watch NFL football together with Single Marine Program. Or be a part of their many volunteer opportunities to give back to the Cherry Point community.
The take away: Connect beyond the screen
The third key component to an emotional and mental health plan is to cultivate happiness. Negativity drains energy, has been linked with poor health, and hurts our self esteem. Happy people who practice positivity feel good about themselves, and as a result achieve their goals, are more independent and have healthier relationships. Cultivating happiness includes having dreams to look forward to, being part of something bigger than yourself, practicing lifelong learning, and looking for ways to bounce back from setbacks.
When adversity hits, it is normal to have negative feelings. What is important is what we do with these feelings. We cannot always control what happens to us or what is happening around us, but we can control how we choose to respond. Ensure that your behaviors and choices are in sync with your ethics, morals, and values. If you are struggling, do not hesitate to seek additional support. The most important conversation we can have about resiliency involves eliminating the stigma associated with seeking professional services. The best way to do this is to normalize our experiences as human beings. The truth is if we are married long enough, parent long enough, work long enough, or live long enough, every one of us will come to a place in our lives where we can use some additional support.
A few things to try? Personal and Professional Development offers resources for employment, education, transition, and financial management. Community Counseling Center offers non-medical counseling for marines and family members who are struggling with handling emotions, transitions, relationships, and stressors. The Substance Abuse Counseling Center provides educational and clinical interventions around managing substance use. Family Advocacy Program and New Parent Support provide families the parenting and relationship support they need to build positive coping strategies and thrive in the face of adversity.
The take away: Cultivate opportunities for happiness
Finally, nurture your spiritual life. It is an important part of managing stress and increasing mindfulness. The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends, “identifying the things in your life that give you a sense of inner peace, love, strength, and connection to others or a higher power.” They recommend setting aside time each day to do the things that sustain you spiritually, which can include religious services, praying, meditating or doing yoga, reading, sitting on the beach, listening to music, or taking a nature walk.
Community activities and volunteer work are other great ways to nurture your spirituality when it is safe to do so. Fostering spirituality also aids in the process of forgiveness. The willingness to forgive others is closely associated with emotional and mental health. Rather than letting the other person “off the hook,” forgiveness is about freeing ourselves from anger, resentment, and anxiety. People who practice forgiveness have better mental health, higher self esteem, and greater satisfaction with life.
A few things to try? Marine Corps Family Team Building and the Chaplains offer Chaplains Religious Enrichment Development Operation (CREDO). They offer religious services and bible studies through the station chaplains. Outdoor Recreation provides kayak and canoe rentals to get back in touch with nature. The nearby Croatan National Forest offers hiking and biking trails. MCCS Behavioral Health, Marine Corps Family Team Building, and Semper Fit provide a variety of classes and paths toward “tuning in” to tackle better sleep, nutrition, breathe control, relaxation, and emotional regulation.
The take away: Nurture a diverse spiritual life
The Wrap Up and Hope
As we wrap up Resiliency Is the New Normal, let’s reflect on the concept of hope. In November 1918 our country was facing a pandemic, the end of World War I, and an election. The pandemic had derailed the suffrage movement. Men were still overseas, and the country had the lowest voter turnout in its recent history for the time. And we persisted. The best resiliency plan for emotional and mental health must include hope. Twenty years of scientific research has shown that hope reduces feelings of helplessness and improves our quality of life.
Looking back over the week, there is notably a great deal of overlap in a good mental and emotional health plan: activities in one area, support fitness in other areas. Just as maintaining our physical health takes effort, an emotional and mental fitness plan must be purposeful. But the rewards are great. People who practice mental and emotional health are more likely to avoid drugs and alcohol when coping with adversity. They are less likely to engage in destructive behaviors and toxic relationships. They are more resilient during transition and when adversity strikes.
Emotional and mental health is an essential part of a holistic fitness plan and will benefit all aspects of your life. So, choose to make it a priority. MCCS has numerous programs that can help. Take a look at the website. Make a few phone calls. There is no wrong door to get you where you want to be. And for more information on MCCS Behavioral Health Programs call 466-3264/8074.